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The BBC's Louise Bevan
"Ministers admit there are still problems in the south west"
 real 56k

The BBC's Charles Rhodes:
Reports from Petrockstowe in Devon where there are plans to bury 400,000 animals
 real 56k

Saturday, 21 April, 2001, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
Burials proceed despite health fears
Dead cattle
Burial backlog "almost clear" in Cumbria
More than 400,000 animals slaughtered to help control the spread of foot-and mouth are to buried at a site in Devon, despite strong protests from local residents.

Opponents of the scheme wanted the Ministry of Agriculture to abandon the burials, due to fears about the potential health risks at Ashmoor Pit, near Okehampton.

But Maff insists it is the only way to bring down the large backlog of carcasses in the south west of England.

With the number of confirmed cases at 1,411, the government said the backlog of slaughtered animals in Cumbria was almost clear, and foot-and-mouth disease was coming "firmly under control".

Crisis in the UK
Cases on Friday: 11
Total confirmed cases: 1,411
But construction of the burial site at Ashmoor is progressing slowly, and it is likely to be two weeks before it can take the rotting carcasses.

Protesters who attended a meeting in the village of nearby Petrockstowe said that decomposing carcasses would contaminate the surrounding land for years.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon repeated government assurances that the site would be safe.

"We have taken into account the best scientific evidence," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The site meets all the criteria and we are working to make it ready."

'Grotesque'

He acknowledged that there was still much to be done in Devon to clear the backlog of slaughtered animals.

Local farmer Alan Pommery told the Today programme that 1,500 carcasses had been rotting on his farm for a week. He said the situation in Devon was a mess.

"If you are sat where we are, picking up rotten, stinking carcasses, it is absolutely grotesque," he said.

"The people in this area just cannot stick it any longer. Foot-and-mouth is a tragedy, but to have carcasses lying around like this is disgusting."

Meanwhile Maff has had to apologise to a farmer in Cumbria after a grid reference error led to the unnecessary slaughter of 500 of his animals.

Professor David King
Prof King: Vaccination would reduce slaughter and numbers of carcasses
Farmers Wayne and Julie Nuttall from Punderland Farm Little Clifton have condemned Maff for gross incompetence and have demanded compensation.

The government has made it clear it wants to introduce a vaccination programme, initially of 180,000 cattle in Cumbria, as part of the final push to contain foot-and-mouth.

But it has also indicated it will not undertake such a scheme until it has the backing of at least 60% of farmers.

A backlash against farmers' leaders who oppose vaccination has been gathering pace.

A "coalition" of influential groups and charities accused the National Farmers' Union of "letting down" its members by refusing to co-operate with proposals to inoculate cattle in the worst-affected areas.

Whistlestop tour

Its leaders, headed by journalist and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, president of the Soil Association, even accused the NFU of putting economic considerations ahead of disease control.

The group said the NFU's stance contradicted the thoughts of many farmers who wanted to preserve herds through vaccination.

Up to 20,000 people are expected at a rally in The Hague in the Netherlands on Saturday, to protest against the current EU and Dutch government policies on the disease.

They are particularly opposed to the culling of healthy animals and the refusal to begin a vaccination policy.

Koji Shinmachi, Janet Anderson, and Richard Copland, at Heathrow
Britain is hosting a delegation of overseas tour operators
In the UK, the disease is still reaching new areas, with the first case in Teesside confirmed at a farm in Cowpen Bewley, near Billingham.

However Leicestershire and Northamptonshire have both been declared free of the virus.

Meanwhile efforts to counteract the devastating effect on foreign tourism caused by images of pyres and slaughtered animals have been continuing.

There has been a positive reaction from an international delegation of tour operators, who were given a "Rolls-Royce" trip around the country.

Tourism chiefs from the US, Canada, Japan and Europe have been given a tour of Britain this week in a government effort to convince them the UK is "open for business".

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20 Apr 01 | UK Politics
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